Ellis Hooks
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Ellis Hooks

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This is the fifth album from Ellis, created in partnership with his producer and band leader Jon Tivens; who he was introduced to by a friend in New York in 2000. Ellis; being one of a family of sixteen children in Mobile Alabama, found his young life was not one that was particularly luxurious or fun filled. Added to which the strict Baptist family rules that his parents followed virtually excluded a young Ellis from the rest of the local known world; so at the age of fourteen after found listening to the local radio station rather than taking a greater interest in the church choir, that which he was part of; his parents strangely, took the seriously drastic decision of throwing him out of his house and home.

As a consequence of this action he, by one means or another travelled across America, taking on casual work to fund his roaming lifestyle. Eventually, he found himself at the age of eighteen in New York and took to busking for a living. His taste for busking and the open road subsequently led to a seven year busking tour of the world, this included residing in Paris and Amsterdam for a brief respite from his travels. He returned to New York at the age of twenty five with intentions of putting a band together, but, despite his best efforts it was to no avail.. So with a great change of mind and heart he seriously contemplated returning to his hometown after turning to the cloth and becoming a preacher.

It was at this point that the chance meeting with Jon Tivens occurred and series of life changing events over a short period took place for Ellis. The consequences of which, brings us to the here and now.Ellis has managed over time to merge a good deal of influences together without necessarily short changing the listener, who may savour, not only deep southern soul infused numbers but examples of the harder biting northern staccato edged movers that people groove to whilst yet still retaining a twenty first century approach to the music. Ellis's voice has a combination of Sam Cooke's sweet suaveness and the rasping harshness of James Brown, which is used to great effect on the more rock underpinned selections on the album.

Writing credits go to Ellis Hooks, John and Sally Tivens, who together wrote the sixteen numbers on the album. The musicians playing on the album are; Ellis; Lead vocals, Jon Tiven; guitars, sitar, piano, organ, alto and tenor saxophone, harmonica and drums. Sally Tiven; bass. Mason Casey; harmonica, The drums are played by Mat Reale; Chester Thompson; Todd Snare; Billy Block; Craig Krampf, Simon Kirke, and Greg Morrow.

This album contains elements of the old, the new and quite possibly what might be the future; rock driven blues and soul? Only time will tell. Despite its lurking rock elements the album is well worth a spin!

- Brian Harman
- Blue Studio Art


Ellis Hooks has dazzled listeners with his ragged but righteous vocals since his initial release in 2002. His music features the best of '60s and '70s Southern blues and soul with just the right amount of rock thrown in for good measure. His songwriting, usually a joint effort with longtime producer Jon Tiven and his wife Sally, touches on the sounds of Muscle Shoals-era soul, but also brings to mind Van Morrison at times.

Hooks' fifth release, Another Saturday Morning (Evidence), features more of the same exciting mix of rock, blues and soul. The opening cut, "Black Dirt," kicks off the disc in fine fashion, and "Don't Stop Dancing" is a strong upbeat number. "Your River" sounds like a long lost Van Morrison track. "Don't Come Running" is another highlight, featuring the harp work of Mason Casey and a powerful vocal from Hooks.

"Bad MF" has a strong early '70s vibe, with the funky Hammond organ and horn section, all performed by Jon Tiven, who also contributes a great guitar solo. "Rain On The Wood" is a gritty soul number about the frustrations of love ("It's hard to light a fire with rain on the wood."), while the title cut is a more meditative number about times gone by. "Do I Ever Cross Your Heart" is a classic soul track about the girl left behind, and the rocking "The Road To Your Heart" raises things up a notch to close things out. There's also a bonus track, the seasonal "If I Gave You My Heart For Christmas."

Another Saturday Morning is another great addition to the Ellis Hooks catalog, featuring his unique and seamless mix of Southern blues and soul.

- Graham Clarke
- Blues Byte


It is a shame when artists as talented as Ellis Hooks have to include as many as sixteen tracks on their CDs so people will buy them. The singer with the James Brown like wails, and soulful vocals performs on the corner where R&B meets Blues Avenue, as he opens his album Another Saturday Morning with "Black Dirt." Guitarist Jon Tiven, a gifted musician who plays numerous instruments on this disc, bends some incredible notes on the second track, "You Move Too Fast," and his licks provide the perfect compliment to Hooks' funky attitude.

Proving that he has much more to offer than old school jive, Hooks delivers in a big time way with the bluesy ballads "Your River," and the in your face, "I've Had It," whose message is accurately reflected in the song's title.

To say that Another Saturday Morning was created, for the most part by very few people, would be an understatement. Jon Tiven plays guitars, sitar, piano, Hammond organ, alto/soprano saxophones, percussion, drums and harmonica. Oh, did we happen to mention that he also produced and engineered the album? Sally Tiven (married to Jon) played bass guitar and all the songs on the CD were written by the Tivens and Hooks. The only significant musical impact on the album that did not originate with this trio was on drums, where seven different musicians took up their position behind the drum kit.

Sounding a bit like John Fogerty, Hooks serves up the southern rock ballad, and the title track, "Another Saturday Morning." The singer proves he does not need to wail and shout to get our attention, as his gritty, but mellow vocals paint a picture of life's struggles.

One of the things that make Another Saturday Morning work so well, is the Hooks-Tiven connection does not allow the album to become bogged down in just one style of music. The song selection is good and varied, evidenced by the inclusion of the quietly, emotive, "You Don't Know Me," a tune that chronicles the deterioration of a relationship, although we are never quite sure if this is a friendship or about love.

There is no mistaking the intent of "Do I Ever Cross Your Heart," a passionate love song, that the thirty-four year Alabaman, Hooks delivers with superheated vocals. For all the men and women out there who wonder, 'what might have been,' the song "Do I Ever Cross Your Heart," provides the antithesis to Allison Krause and John Waite's 2007 cover of Waite's original number one hit (1984), "Missing You." Hooks' vocal performance on "Do I Ever Cross Your Heart," deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Bill Medley's, "Unchained Melody," and Lauren Wood's "Fallen," (the theme song from the movie Pretty Woman).

The music reverts back to blues with the sordid song titled, "Churchyard Girl." If you do not want a lot of questions from your children, you might be best to play this one when they are not within earshot (smile).

As the CD winds down, Hooks turns in another fine southern rock performance with the ballad, "The Road To Your Heart," and closes out this splendid album with "If I Give You My Heart For Christmas."

Riveting Riffs gives Ellis Hooks' CD Another Saturday Morning, both thumbs up and highly recommends this great collection of songs. We do not rate CDs but if we did, this album would receive our top rating.

- Joe Montague
- Riverting Riffs


For crying out loud SOUL, this man has got the licks, the heat and the deep from the core, real deal stuff. There's a studio full of heat here, and this disk works way better than a Jon Tiven, multitracked techno endeavor would suggest. Hooks is Southern soul filtered by a strict Baptist upbringing and years of NYC street singing. His songs are hot, lathered and butter smooth. The power of opener "Black Dirt" grabs your lapels and shakes you awake as does "You Move Too Fast." Big horns blast and throbbing rhythm drives. When Ellis wails on "Don't Come Running To Me", you are witnessing the birth of something big and it puts Chris Robinson (Black Crowes) right into this place while bringing Wicked Wilson to mind. "Bad MF" oozes funk city soul, "I've Had It" recaps the Temptations and the mood of the Doobies is felt as Hooks pays a nod to "Bobby and Ray" with a tight but shallow vibe. Hall and Oates comes across "Feel My Vibration", "Churchyard Girl" has an autobiographical slant and "The Road To Your Heart" pulses with a Some Girls Rolling Stones style soul blast of energy that emerges into a Bob Seger rock anthem feel in "If I Give You My Heart for Christmas." Ellis Hooks is so soul and so sweet and he rocks and soothes, drives and cools.

- Doc Blues

- Long Island Blues Society


Discography

Undeniable (2002, Zane Records)

Up Your Mind (2003, Evidence Records)

Uncomplicated (2004, Artemis Records)

The Hand Of God (2005, Zane Records)

Godson Of Soul (2005, Evidence Records)

Another Saturday Morning (2007, Evidence Records)

Photos

Bio

Until the arrival of Ellis Hooks on the 21st century blues and soul scenes with his now-signature meld of R&B, blues and Southern gospel, it seemed that the great stories surrounding these musics had already been told and passed into antiquity with the great names assigned to them -- Otis Redding, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, James Carr, and Sam Cooke, to name a few. Not so. Ellis Hooks was born in Bayminette, Alabama, between Birmingham and Montgomery. He is the 13th of 16 children born to sharecroppers. According to legend, he didn't own a pair of shoes until he was eight.

Hooks began his singing career as a child leading the church choir, but fell under the sway of the soul, blues, and country music his older brothers listened to on the radio. The voices of Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Little Milton were sheer enchantment for the youth. At the age of 15, Hooks decided to seek his fortune as a singer and left home. He hitchhiked across the United States, working odd jobs, and playing and singing for anyone who would listen on street corners, and eventually landed in New York. In the city he slept where he could, played the occasional club gig on Bleeker Street, and spent many days singing in Central Park. In the storied way Hooks' life has unfolded, Diana Ross heard him in Central Park and, taken with his unique vocal style which blends the soul croon and blues growl, offered him a recording session at the famed Power Station studio. Hooks balked and never showed up, later claiming that he wasn't ready and his songs weren't developed enough.

Hooks wasted no time in making his next career move. He earned enough for a one-way trip to Europe and spent time living in Paris, Amsterdam, and in Milan, where he played tube stops and street corners. It's a time he looks back on fondly: "European audiences receive you; they're open and they treat you like family. In the United States you have to fight for every audience member," he told this journalist in an interview.

Hooks returned to New York in 1995 where lightning struck for the second time upon meeting producer Jon Tiven. Hooks accompanied a young singer as a chaperone to an audition at Tiven's studio. While the producer was unimpressed with the singer's audition, he challenged Hooks, asking him what he did. Hooks, miffed by the dismissal of his friend, told Tiven he sang. Tiven offered the young man a guitar and a chance to prove it, and a partnership was born.

Hooks and Tiven began a working partnership that has yielded no less than three fine recordings. Undeniable was issued on the European Zane label in 2002. Using a backing band under the directorship of Tiven, who plays guitar, keyboards and alto saxophone, and his bass-playing wife Sally, Undeniable caught the ear of critics all over Europe, Time Out, in the U.K., acclaimed it the soul album of the year and it earned Hooks the headline spot on the BBC's World Music Festival on New Year's Day 2003. Hooks toured incessantly, playing club gigs, and he won an opening slot for Terence Trent D'Arby, where he played for over 40,000 people. Hooks also won the admiration of Carla Thomas and appeared at both the Montreux Jazz Festival and Poretta Soul Festival as her special guest.

Hooks has issued two more albums. First, there's the rollicking Up Your Mind, on the Evidence label; it was released in late 2003, and garnered Hooks a W.C. Handy Award nomination. March 2004 saw the release of the stunning Uncomplicated (entitled Hand of God in Europe) on the Artemis label, and it gathered a storm of notoriety and praise on both sides of the Atlantic from critics and fans. An album project Hooks worked on in the 1980s, The Godson of Soul, was reissued by Evidence Records on CD in 2005, followed on the label by a new album, Another Saturday Morning, in 2007. Hooks is the true continuum in the celebrated Southern traditions of soul, blues, and gospel; his voice, while reminiscent of some of the greats, is nonetheless his own, and his phrasing is a trademark. Given the powerful nature of his recordings and his now-storied intensity in concert, Hooks may indeed be the artist who brings these historic traditions back into the musical dialogue and onto the charts in the 21st century.

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